We have just returned from an overnight pig harvest class. Over the course of two days, I worked with fifteen people to turn two pastured pigs into butchered cuts and dry-aged bacon and ham.
The farm is located west of the Cascades here in Washington and smack in the middle of the best dairy plains in the country. After slaughtering the pig in the field that was its home, I put the knives in the students' hands for the scalding, de-hairing and offal harvest.
For lunch we gathered under a birch tree and our farmer served liver fried in raw butter from the family cow and kidneys in a piquant sauce served with home-made fermented bread. On butchery day, we feasted on head of pig slow roasted to the point where the skin becomes crispy and the flesh spoonable.
These meals are the crowning glory of our harvest classes. They are always spontaneous and consistently better then anything money can buy even in the best restaurants. A meal of liver still warm with life is only possible on a farm and on the day of a pig harvest.
I say these meals are the crowning glory of Farmstead Meatsmith's work, but they are also the compass. It is a fact that if you pursue culinary perfection in meat cookery, you find yourself not in a michelin starred restaurant, but on a farm, being served most likely by a woman who can cook a pig head and nurse a five month-old child at the same time.
My purpose for Farmstead Meatsmith is to serve the peasant's table by putting pig head, pate terrine and dry-cured ham back on the menu. Our highest backers so far are from the peasant's table; they are small farmers.
Their tables are rich, but their bank accounts are not. So the success of this campaign has always rested on reaching as many people as possible and on a few of them not being peasants.
We've got just a few hours left in the campaign. It ends tonight. This is an all or nothing campaign which means that if we don't reach our goal, we don't get any funding.
What gives me hope is that there is still room at the peasant's table. Invite as many as you can for the final hours of the campaign.
In addition to pig head, fried liver and kidneys in a sauce, our farm cook prepared pate terrine wrapped in the white lace of caul fat. She had never cooked any of these things before and they were all perfect. With six children running around (three of them mine), it was clear to me that the small farmer more than anyone shows us what is possible.
Funding this campaign is possible. Let's start cooking!
Thank you for the abundance,
We are coming down to the final stages of the campaign. It is time to pull out the stops.
Because this project is about spreading knowledge, I have added two video projects to the campaign. With the funding, we will be able to create two series:
First, we want to reward the universe by creating a free video series on processing poultry called Homestead Harvest: Poultry. We will harvest chickens, ducks and turkeys. The first video will cover the traditional slaughter and the second will be peasant cookery and preservation. This series will be available for free online.
Secondly, we will create a beef series of three videos covering slaughter, butchery and cookery/curing. Homestead Harvest: Beef will be available for free only to our Kickstarter backers.
You will find in our rewards column that we have added several rewards pertaining to these winsomely instructional videos. If you contribute at certain levels, you may find yourself getting top billing or actually being a cast member.
We are also offering the expanded The Butcher’s Salt as a PDF and the chance for you to select the topic for one of the next five chapters.
These educational projects are the soul of Farmstead Meatsmith. You can see our one and only series to date here. It takes lots of hands to build a butcher shop and if we are successful we will be able to return peasant wisdom to yours.
Thank you for your faith,
Why a butcher shop that doesn’t sell meat?
Isn’t that like a dairy that doesn’t milk cows? Part of the agrarian renaissance is the growth of small producers. These are the customers of Farmstead Meatsmith.
They are the vegetable farmer at your local farmers’ market who can’t afford to buy organic meat, but he can grow enough veg to feed a few pigs each year. So he wisely raises his own pastured pork to feed his family.
He calls Farmstead Meatsmith to help him harvest his pigs because he knows that we won’t waist anything. The hanging weight of his pig is exactly what he gets back wrapped and labeled. None of it is sold, because all of it is his.
Why a slaughter truck?
I drive out to his farm with my refrigerated box truck that is outfitted with a crane. The farmer has cared for these pigs for ten months, down to growing the food they eat. A humane slaughter is invaluable to him. Transporting the pig to a slaughterhouse adds stress and expense, so we bring the slaughterhouse to the pig.
For herding animals like pigs and sheep, separation from the group means death, so we harvest them on their turf. The pig drops silently and instantly while eating breakfast. With the slaughter truck, we scald, scrape and harvest the offal on the farm, offering the farmer literally every ounce of his own pig, from blood to liver, attended by peasant methods for cooking it all.
My refrigerated truck allows me to transport the carcass back to my shop on Vashon where I cut and wrap it according to the farmer’s specifications.
Who wants to learn how to butcher?
Every part of this process from slaughter to butchery and charcuterie can be turned into a hands-on class. I make sure our farmer knows that if I can invite students to participate in the harvest of his pig, then I can discount his processing costs.
These classes attract everyone. They are intensely practical and ultimately culinary. People come to experience what it means to eat animal flesh. They come to learn how to process their own livestock at home. They come from the city to experience the culinary subtlety in scalding and scraping a pig. They come from home kitchens to learn better food economy through charcuterie.
Is this for education or livestock processing?
What we've been doing so far:
The services and classes described above are what we have been doing for the past three years without an infrastructure. Recently, we were able to acquire a refrigerated box truck and pour a slab for our butcher shop. Since the beginning of Farmstead Meatsmith, we have been acquiring equipment on craigslist: stainless sinks, 50 year old tracking systems, a walk-in refrigerator...
We have come as far as we can on our own. Our box truck is not finished being outfitted for farm slaughter and our butcher shop still can't house our equipment because it doesn't have walls or plumbing.
Custom slaughter and butcher operations like ours have been around for a long time. They are essential to the flourishing of small-scale farmers whose three pigs a year don't fit in a slaughterhouse that processes 400 a day.
The few that are left are stretched too thin. In our region, it will take Farmstead Meatsmith years to catch up with the demand not only for small-scale processing, but processing that is guided by tradition and that reflects the same care at the pig's death that went into sustaining her life.
We are not launching a global revolution in meat processing. Instead, we have chosen to use the one weapon that the industrial meat system does not have in its arsenal: smallness.
Kickstarter has proven the power of small contributions over and over again. Through your donations to our first campaign, we were able to share a little bit of traditional meatsmithing online through On the Anatomy of Thrift.
We have found that one way to discover your calling is to wait for the phone to ring. You have done this for us and we are heeding the call.
We have more material to produce, more than we can handle now. The only thing that is stopping us is our own infrastructure. We need to complete our slaughter truck and butcher shop so that we can have a launching pad for more winsome instruction in old-school meatsmithery, the only kind of harvesting worthy of pastured livestock raised on a small farm.
This will empower us to make our knowledge global and keep our harvesting services local.
Our first responsibility is to our small corner of the Puget Sound where the State Agricultural Department has specific requirements for our business. This project will enable us to satisfy those and to recreate Augustus' shop.
We have come to you not because Kickstarter is easy money (it's not), but because it is real money. We believe that to maintain the integrity of our business, funding it by means less noble than the ends is self-defeating. You represent a new currency as a contributor and that is a revolution indeed.
The industrial meat processing system began and sustains itself not by providing a needed service, but by borrowing money on a regular basis. Like a cancer, it perpetuates its own existence at the expense of the organism it infests.
In blinding contrast, you grant us perpetuity through gratuity. There can be nothing more threatening to the billion dollar industry of meat fabrication than the ten dollar bill freely given in love.
This is why we come to you. We believe our business isn't worth a thing if it isn't worthy of your support.
Thank you for your love.
Post Script: here is the budget that Lauren created. It details how the money will be used.
I am networking throughout the day, granted breaks by temporary internet failures (island living...) and plastic swords wielded by two year-olds with surprising force and devastating consequences.
We are hunkering down for our next update, so stay turned.
Where we're at:
Right now Farmstead Meatsmith is turning into a butterfly. We’ve got a shop half built,
a truck half outfitted,
an instructional series just started,
and a Laundry List of educational materials that upgraded infrastructure will enable us to produce:
Risks and challenges
We've done our homework on WSDA certification requirements, but come inspection day, our inspector could tell us our water heater is not in the right place. She or he could very well be displeased with our antique butcher block sitting in the corner of the shop requiring plastic instead. All these circumstances and more could stretch our budget and delay our deadline of finishing construction before the next season hits us like a storm (usually September).
But God knows we've encountered difficulties of this magnitude before and somehow Meatsmith is still with us. Should costs be more than we anticipate, we'll save and continue next spring. Should the inspector raise eyebrows, we'll work out our differences with creativity and compliance.
These challenges are no different than what we encounter everyday already as Meatsmiths: unruly livestock amidst inadequate fencing, broken kitchen faucet #6, Lauren's weekly accounting headaches, revamping our entire pricing system repeatedly, supplying all the physical labor for shop construction, teaching ourselves to maintain a website, juggling the roles of parent, secretary, owner, butcher and head of marketing frequently all at once...
These trials are not uncommon to small business owners. They are uncommon to meat packing plants where labor is delegated down to each movement of the knife. Candidly, we think these challenges give us a considerable advantage.
Meatsmith Tools Inventory: The List of everything we use for backyard and home-kitchen meat processing (from the kill to the cure), complete with current pricing and suppliers. Once you've got the right tools the meat nearly processes itself.
Weekend private for you and three of your friends. Brandon will fly to you--anywhere in the continental US--to teach you any meat processing topic. (Doesn't include the meat. If you don’t already have an animal, carcass or selection of cure-worthy meat, we can help you source this.)